Opening the latest issue of your favourite fashion glossy, only to be greeted by an onslaught of advert-after-advert-after-advert is always a shock. Having admired the issue’s latest dreamy cover girl (whose complexion and piercing eyes leave you in somewhat of an effervescent state) and planned which of the enchantingly titled ‘MUST READ’ articles to delve into first, my mood plunges when I have to flick through at least ten pages of the latest ad campaigns before I even see a contents page.
Editorial is now a critically weak cordial in a very over diluted glass of advertising squash where opinion and comment is sometimes hard to taste. I do not buy my magazines to see what I can’t have, I buy them to engage with intelligent and beautifully crafted writing and to see photoshoots where the clothes look good enough to taste. I’m left with a similarly bad taste in my mouth on Saturday nights when Garry Barlow and Dermot O’Leary’s faces disappear every twelve minutes for an ad break.
But back to the print side of things – admittedly, magazine editorial and photography are not playgrounds for dress-up and wish-lusting, but in fact a boxing ring of big names and bigger prices. It is estimated that the September issue of American Vogue generated over 90 million dollars in advertising revenue this year. It is therefore no coincidence that Mui Mui’s latest It bag, splashed across the three page fold-out advert (that reportedly costs from $150,000 to place), also happens to be the magazine’s must have item of this month.
Editors, like the designers, have businesses to run and would be stupid not to glamorize the products that are keeping the publication financially afloat. But advertising is a game and a very expensive one that threatens creativity and editorial freedom. The individual voices of critical fashion journalists are faint amongst the booming shouts of the ‘MUST BUYS OF THIS SEASON’ that dominate every other page. What’s more, if you are going to buy a magazine of this kind, it is likely that you will have your own tastes and are not looking to be told what to like or who to wear. Yet trend focused publications are portrayed as style bibles whose teachings (‘BUY THIS’, ‘WEAR THESE’ and ‘YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE TO FEEL LIKE A REAL WOMAN’) should be followed with financial accuracy and finesse. But let’s be honest, neither my financial situation nor my awareness towards the manipulation tactics at play would allow me to participate.
Aware of this, I look to the opinion columns, usually buried somewhere close to the end of the 400 pages that offer commentaries with gentle and unpatronizing nudges in the right direction.
Whilst I take issue with the domination of advertising campaigns (by my reckoning, 250 of Vogue’s 445 pages were adverts in the October issue), I understand their financial weight and also therefore, their fixed position in any magazine of this kind. Whilst they detract from viewing pleasure and make the publication twice as heavy, we must learn to love not loath these adverts, which in reality keep the magazines in print.
That very creativity and sparkle I talked of craving in editorial is visible in Mulberry’s latest ad offering for Autumn/ Winter 2011/ 2012.
The double page spread pulls you into an autumnal scuffle of life sized birds and perplexed looking models who together nestle in what seems to be a giant bird’s nest with floral wallpaper. The layering of textures that combine twigs, velvety birds’ feathers and the shimmering metallics of the models’ dresses and bag buckles, fuse to create something that is both imaginative and reminiscent of a high fashion shoot.
In this instance I am captured. Engaged, not by the £2,100 Tillie Duffle Waxy Sheepskin coat (as gorgeous as it is) but instead by the same creative thought process that makes reading an editorial so satisfying. So clever is Mulberry’s campaign that I’m sold on all elements: bag, dress, coat, boats but most importantly, the brand.
This is intelligent advertising. The kind that is an acceptable interruption to your browsing.
Adverts are to be consumed with the same I-wish-I-could-have longing as the items featured in the shoots… at least in the adverts they are polite enough not to include the gigantic price tags or those ‘PRICE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST’ notes that make the crude reality of wanting, a bit of a joke. In another sense, the captivating adverts are bold testament to the brand, almost like a business card, whose design element is taken to the extreme. Either way, magazines without their advertising would mean me without my magazine. And for that reason, I am willing to flick through 250 pages to get the gold.